Not a day goes by where I don’t dread the night. It’s difficult to find the light when even the room around me is dark. I put off sleeping as long as possible, sometimes even for days a time. I have an extreme dislike for almost everything associated with bedtime. I really struggle with taking my medication. There’s all this pressure to make sure I fall asleep in a timely manner so I can get enough sleep so I don’t ruin tomorrow before it even starts. Sleeping requires giving up all control and handing it over to my brain, who I don’t trust. My brain tortures me at night with the worst nightmares one could experience. My nightmares are so real that I can’t tell if I’m dreaming or if I’m awake. When I try to wake myself up in the dream, my nightmare plays the scene that I have woken up and then continues the nightmare. I lose track of reality, and often can’t tell the difference between being awake and being asleep. I’ll talk to my friends about something that happened, and they’ll inform the that it was never real, raising the question of if I simply dreamed it and mistook it for reality.
My nightmares force me to relive the worst day of my life, or take my fears and play them out to the extreme. For example, my OCD concerns itself not with germs and cleanliness, and manifests in self in other ways, like worrying about harm to myself and others. Basically what this looks like, is when my friend recently moved from Wisconsin to Wyoming, I needed her to text me every leg of the journey so I knew how it was going. In my nightmares, my brain takes the important people in my life and puts them in horrible and dangerous positions, both physically and mentally. I often had to text my friend in the morning so they can assure me that they’re safe and alive. The worst is when I wake up from a nightmare, unable to move my body. This is called sleep paralysis, or a temporary inability to move or speak when waking or falling asleep. It’s terrifying. and often adds to my feelings of helplessness and not being in control. I often find myself shaken to my core in the hours, or sometimes even days, after a nightmare, I’m on two different medications to help with my nightmares, and these experiences are still a nightly occurrence. Imagine what it was like before the medication!
Even with my medications that have sedative properties, it can still take me upwards of 3-4 hours to fall asleep. It’s a nightly challenge to turn my brain off in preparation for sleep. Laying in bed, in the dark, with no distraction to keep my brain from wandering, I typically find myself thinking about things that work me up and make me anxious. I’ll think about stupid little things I said to a friend months ago, or I’ll begin questioning life decisions about the places I’ve moved, or the friends I’ve cut out of my life. The negative self-talk soon follows, and by the time I fall asleep, I’m crying and wanting to die. Sometimes I feel so sickened by my thoughts that I genuinely throw up… all I’m trying to do is get some rest!!
On another note dealing with my PTSD and falling asleep, I always have to fall asleep with the TV running. Trying to fall asleep to silence leads to me assuming every little noise the house makes is a past abuser breaking into the house to enact their revenge, by doing something like setting the house on fire or looking for me so that they can hurt me. Most of the time the noises are just the house settling, or one of my grandparents getting a glass of water. But the sheer paranoia from my PTSD takes this little bumps and turns them into full on panic-able things. With the TV on, I hear only a fraction of these noises, meaning I won’t go hiding in my closet at every thump.
Nighttime has always been stressful for me. It has always been one of the most challenging parts of recovery. Despite all of my medication, years of therapies, like EMDR and bilateral stimulation, sleeping is a daily struggle that I have to face. Do you struggle with sleep and have tips of your own that help you fall asleep? I’m always open to hearing new ideas! Let me know in the comments below!